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obama, clinton, jones (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Obama Builds His Cabinet

President-elect introduces national security team

By Laura Leigh Davidson | December 3 , 2008

Being President of the United States is a big job. No one could possibly do it alone. So each President relies on a team of 15 advisers, called the Cabinet. This team of men and women provide the President with information and advice on issues and events that affect the country.

President-elect Barack Obama is in the process of building his Cabinet. On Monday, he announced his picks for Cabinet positions that focus on security issues, within the U.S. and around the world. Most of the nominees will have to be confirmed by the Senate before they can serve in the President's Cabinet.

Former political rival Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is the President-elect's choice for Secretary of State. If confirmed, Clinton will leave her New York Senate seat to head the Department of State, and represent the United States in contacts with foreign governments throughout the world.

"She possesses an extraordinary intelligence and toughness, and a remarkable work ethic," President-elect Obama said as he introduced Clinton at his press conference. "She is an American of tremendous stature. . .who will have the ability to advance our interests around the world."

Clinton thanked her New York constituents and said she was sad about leaving the Senate. But she believes the best way to serve her country is to become Secretary of State.

"I am proud to join you on what will be a difficult and exciting adventure in this new century," she said in response to Obama's remarks.

The Secretary of Defense is another key member of the President's Cabinet who deals with issues related to foreign policy. Obama has asked the current Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, to continue coordinating the work of America's military throughout the world. But Obama made clear the focus of Secretary Gates's work will be different from what it has been during Gates' two years in President Bush's administration.

"I will be giving Secretary Gates and our military a new mission as soon as I take office—responsibly ending the war in Iraq through a successful transition to Iraqi control," he said.

Gates said he was "deeply honored" that Obama asked him to serve. "With a profound sense of personal responsibility to and for our men and women in uniform and their families, I must do my duty as they do theirs," he said. "How could I do otherwise?"

Obama tapped Susan Rice as Ambassador to the United Nations, and named retired Marine General James Jones as White House National Security Adviser. Rice and Jones will also play important roles in crafting foreign policy.

Attorney General-designate Eric Holder
Attorney General-designate Eric Holder speaks during a news conference with President-elect Barack Obama, not pictured, in Chicago, Illinois, Monday, December 1, 2008. (Photo: ©Charles Dharapak/AP Images)

Moving to security at home, President-elect Obama nominated Eric Holder for Attorney General. The Attorney General heads the Department of Justice. If he is confirmed by the Senate, Holder will be the first African-American to serve as Attorney General.

"Eric also has the combination of toughness and independence that we need at the Justice Department," Obama said.

Holder served in the Justice Department under former President Bill Clinton. Creativity is an important part of his vision for the Justice Department.

"We will need to interact with our state and local partners in new innovative ways to help them solve . . . issues that they confront on a daily basis," he said. "National security concerns are not defined only by the challenges created by terrorists abroad but also by criminals in our midst."

Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano will serve as Secretary of Homeland Security. Napolitano will lead a department that directly affects 22 government agencies, including the Coast Guard, Border Patrol, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). She will also oversee U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Clinton, Holder, Napolitano, and Rice will go to Capitol Hill to answer questions from members of the Senate in the coming weeks. Jones, as a White House official, does not require Senate confirmation. Gates has already been confirmed as Secretary of Defense.

Obama has named other members of his cabinet that will focus on the economy, health care, and transportation. Scholastic News Online will bring you more on those appointments soon.

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